Defense to Senate: Sorry to offend you

Ayee Macaraig
Lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona apologize to senators and deny accusing them of accepting bribes

WE'RE SORRY. Defense counsel Jose Roy III apologizes to senators for their press conference and denies his team accused them of bribery. Photo by Joseph Vidal/PRIB/Senate Pool

MANILA, Philippines – From fighting form to sorry.

A day after a combative press conference warning against possible bribery, lawyers of Chief Justice Renato Corona softened their tone and apologized to senators.

The Senate ordered Corona’s lawyers to submit a written explanation on why they should not be cited in contempt.

Senators demanded answers from defense counsels on their statements that Malacañang is pressuring and offering bribes to members of the impeachment court.

Defense counsel Jose “Judd” Roy III took the podium to field the senators’ questions on Day 16 of the impeachment trial.

Citing an anonymous source, Roy said in the defense’s press conference Sunday that the Palace will supposedly release P100-M this week for each senator who votes to defy the temporary restraining order on Corona’s dollar accounts.

“We apologize if our statement was not clear. We are not trying to imply that you were bribed,” Roy told Sen Alan Peter Cayetano during the trial. “We went to the media to send a clear message to those trying to subvert the process that we won’t allow this to go unnoticed.”

Cayetano said he felt insulted that he even had to deny accepting a bribe. Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Pia Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes IV also questioned Roy, saying the defense’s statement discredited the Senate.

Roy said the defense only wanted to expose to the public that Malacañang was pressuring the senators, and that this was not fair to their client.

Cayetano responded, “Pressure is always part of the game. Ang tanong magpapa-pressure ba kami?” (The question is will we be pressured?)

Attorney-client privilege

The defense panel refused to divulge its source, citing attorney-client privilege. Asked if this meant that Corona was their source, Roy told reporters that the privilege covers all matters in the course of a lawyer’s work for his or her client.

“We have to protect the secrets of our clients even to the peril of ourselves. That is the job of lawyers, to assume the danger for the client,” he said.

Roy explained that the decision to hold the press conference on Sunday was contentious. He said the alleged pressure from the Palace was first exposed by former Sen Francisco Tatad but was confirmed by an independent and reliable source of the defense on Saturday.

“We had a long and intense debate and this is one of the results, that we may be admonished. But we said, we already heard about this news. Do we just play ignorant?”

“That’s what happened. Some senators were not happy but we already expressed that we will be more careful [next time],” Roy said in Filipino. He also said that the defense hopes “to fully repair relations with the court.”

Roy added that it is part of lawyers’ obligation to protect the integrity of the judicial process.

“Incidental beneficiary”

The defense panel also welcomed the decision of the Senate to respect the TRO on the subpoena of Corona’s dollar accounts.

Defense spokesperson Tranquil Salvador III said the 13-10 vote was a victory for the Philippine Savings Bank, whose request for the TRO was granted by the Supreme Court.

“We just incidentally benefit from this decision, if at all. This victory is for the banking industry. As a senator pointed out, defying the TRO raises fears of a bank run and economic effects.”

Corona to disclose dollar accounts

Roy told the impeachment court that Corona promised to disclose his dollar accounts at the appropriate time or when the defense presents its evidence.

Sen Francis Escudero said the court will hold the defense team to this promise. With Corona volunteering to disclose the information, Escudero said this was a way out of the dilemma surrounding the TRO. –


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